In the Midst of Chaos: How Colby Covington has become the Athletic Embodiment of a Divided Society
As we stand here in September 2019, the world around us is in a complex, if not dire, state of affairs. Divisive leader of the free world Donald Trump is facing an official impeachment inquiry after essentially asking Ukraine to meddle in the upcoming 2020 American Presidential election. Back at home in Canada things aren’t much better, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau being slammed for past ‘blackface’ transgressions as his main election opponent Andrew Scheer staunchly defends racism and homophobia in his own party. Meanwhile, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg recently unleashed her scorn on world leaders for ignoring what she calls an impending ‘climate emergency’, appearing more competent than any of said leaders in doing so.
This is where we are at. Differences in opinions on these issues are vast, and with that comes conflict. Overwhelming isn’t it?
There seems to be one word that sums it up well: chaos. Remember the word.
This is where we turn our attention back to sports.
Sports, like any form of entertainment, has traditionally been an outlet from the real world. A sort of fantasy land if you will.
However, what happens when the line between fantasy and reality is blurred?
Looking at historical precedent, moments like this and the athletes involved have withstood the test of time, creating unparalleled attention in both sports and mainstream media circles alike. One of the greatest case studies from this modern era of societal issues and tension is that of Colin Kaepernick and his decision to lead the movement to kneel during the American national anthem in response to widespread police injustice towards African-Americans.
Kaepernick has not taken an NFL snap since 2016 yet he still seems to be at the front of the news despite his absence. Why? In an age of strong yet divided opinion, everyone has one when it comes to the former 49ers quarterback.
Here’s the proof from ESPN’s First Take from just four days ago:
So, let me propose a scenario for you. What might happen if an athlete were to come along right now that could cause a similar level of division as Kaepernick, but instead of being banished from his sport, he ascended to the very peak of it?
Such an athlete exists, and he is about to break through in a major way. Colby Covington fights for the UFC Welterweight title against champion Kamaru Usman on December 14th at UFC 245 in Las Vegas, a pay-per-view shaping up to be one of the most significant MMA cards in recent memory.
The title fight for Covington follows a rapid rise through the UFC for the former NCAA All-American wrestler, amassing a 10-1 record with the promotion including back-to-back wins over former champions Rafael Dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler his last two times out. Especially impressive was the way in which he controlled the future hall-of-famer Lawler from start to finish during their fight at UFC on ESPN 5 in Newark. Covington dominated in all facets, forcing Lawler back into a defensive shell from which there would be no way he could win the fight. The scorecards reflected the one-sidedness of the bout: 50-44, 50-45, 50-45, all in favour of Covington.
Based on that one fight alone, there is no doubting Covington’s talent or his deservedness of his upcoming shot at the belt. Yet, when fans discuss Covington, the conversation hardly ever revolves around what he can do inside the octagon.
A passionate Republican party supporter, Covington idolizes President Trump and the Trump family. He was even able to visit the President at the White House with his interim title belt after winning it in 2018.
Like the Donald, Covington has become a divisive figure, with his comments and actions becoming increasingly inflammatory as he continues to rise in the sport. A great example of this came in October 2017 after beating Brazilian Demian Maia in Sao Paulo. Having already made several comments about the country earlier in the week, Covington had something to say to the fans in his post-fight interview.
“I should have knocked him [Maia] out. Brazil, you’re a dump. All you filthy animals suck.”
Covington had to be locked in his hotel room that night as he had what could probably be classed as very legitimate death threats come his way.
Undeterred by the incident, he continues to be outspoken in this way and is now embroiled in a heated rivalry with the Nigerian Usman. Covington has already dragged politics into the discussion by referring to Usman only as ‘Marty Fakenewsman’, an obvious reference to one of Trump’s favourite terms.
With over two months to go until the fight, the opportunity for more fireworks in their war of words is great. Going into the highest profile matchup of his career, Covington will have the chance to incite a larger audience than ever before. Undoubtedly, as he gains more exposure with the mainstream audiences, opinions will continue to be deeply divided, with people either wanting to see him get his head knocked off or continue his rise to the top.
For Colby Covington, it doesn’t matter which side you’re on. His nickname is ‘Chaos’ and he is thriving in this insane world unlike any other athlete.